Dear Bulldog, I found out that my son was involved with a group of kids that were bullying this other kid. I am mortified and so upset. He is not like that and bullying is not acceptable in our home. What do I do? From an Upset Mother
Dear Upset Mother,
We understand how this must be hard and probably baffling, since this is going against your guiding principles at home. We recommend you spend some time talking to your son, but also listening to what he has to say about the situation. Without judgement, ask him why he is picking on this boy. Listen to him and try to understand how he got involved. It could be peer pressure or fear he is going to get picked on if he does not engage. Then ask him how he would feel if the group of friends targeted him. You can also ask him how he would feel if someone targeted you. The idea is to have him see the impact of his actions by putting himself in this kid’s shoes. Ask: “how would you feel, how would you act, and how would you think of yourself?” Ask him what he can do to help the boy that’s being targeted.
This is also a great time to talk about peer pressure and friendship. Use your son’s strengths and qualities to share how he can be a leader…a strong, kind, and compassionate leader. Talk about what you expect of him without shaming him. You can also share a time where you hurt someone and talk about how it made you feel. The goal is to have him feel the pain of the other child. We often work so hard on teaching our kids about manners and being good, but we forget to teach them about empathy and kindness. A book that we recommend is Unselfie, by Michelle Borba. She has extensive ideas to further develop your child’s empathy. It’s not a one time conversation with your son. You need to continue to develop his empathy and compassion. You can ask him each day what he will do to be a kind strong leader. You can also use the superhero model. Ask him how he will be a superhero and what is his power to save the day. Will his shield protect a child from bullying? Will he be super fast to sit with the kid eating lunch alone? Will he be super strong and stand up to the bully? Think of ways you can transfer the learning to help him come up with acts of kindness.
We wish you all the best!